Aug 15, 2006
A key protein linked to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, has been characterised using NMR by US researchers.
John Cavanagh, Douglas Kojetin, David Kordys, and Richele Thompson of North Carolina State University teamed with colleagues Ronald Venters of Duke University and Rajiv Kumar of the Mayo Clinic and Foundation have obtained a structure for the protein, calbindin-D28K. This protein modulates calcium levels by sequestering calcium from areas that have too much or serves as an on/off switch for further chemical reactions. It is found in the kidneys, pancreas, ocular nerve and large amounts are present in the brain. It is its role in the brain as a “bodyguard” against the action of the enzyme caspase-3 that links it to neurodegenerative diseases. By binding to and inhibiting caspase-3, calbindin D28K prevents the formation of damaging plaque and tangle formation in the brain, which are hallmarks of neurodegenerative disease. The structure of this key protein has remained elusive, until now.